So, the 2019 Lok Sabha elections will not see a Presidential form of contest. It will be Narendra Modi versus the rest of the Opposition, since the latter has chosen not to name a leader and to let competing ambitions flourish in the rainbow coalition it hopes to stitch together. Expounded as part of its grand strategy on Friday, the Congress high command has already given PM Modi an initial advantage. For, he will not miss any opportunity to mock at the lack of Opposition unity, as he did while replying to the debate on the recent no-trust vote in the Lok Sabha.
What also stood out was the Congress high command’s anxiety to unseat Modi, but not necessarily the BJP. The claim that Modi cannot stay in the saddle if the BJP gets less than 230 Lok Sabha seats, since the NDA’s internal dynamics could lead to a change of leadership in the new BJP-led government, did make sense. But coming as it did from the high command, it indicated the Congress was content with being the runner-up. The party must remember that ‘not failure, but low aim, is a crime’, as poet James Russell Lowell famously said.
The urge to beat Modi at his own game was apparent in the hasty coalition Congress President Rahul Gandhi put together in Karnataka when he found that the BJP was the single-largest party but short of a simple majority after the Assembly elections. He let the JD(S) head the government with the numerically bigger Congress playing junior partner. And Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is already embarrassing the Grand Old Party. No wonder, the Congress high command on Friday didn’t count Karnataka among the states where it could expect a rich harvest of Lok Sabha seats.
To try and tarnish Modi’s reputation, the Congress keeps bringing up the Rafale deal hoping its corruption charges would stick in the long run; and flags issues like PNB scamster Mehul Choksi’s great escape to Antigua, harping on the PM referring to him as Mehul bhai in 2016. It’s a game of perception and the Congress hopes to be the giant-killer.